But, I recently found myself editing or deleting a small handful of comments not for any of the above reasons, but because I was concerned that if I published them “as is,” they’d risk landing me in court.
These comments shared detailed stories about people and businesses whom the commenters felt had done them wrong.
They named names and made claims.
If the claims were 100% true, verifiable and told the full story, they’d very likely have been legally defensible. Meaning, neither the person sharing them, nor the blog publishing them, would be liable (not always, but probably) for damages.
Problem is, as a blogger, I don’t know the true story.
I don’t know both sides, nor can I easily verify the facts. Nor should it be my job to do so. But, when I hit publish, especially if the comment is about a non-public figure, there is an argument that I become part of the chain of representations or misrepresentations. And, as part of that chain, if the claims are false and the person who’s being slammed or their business suffers harm, then I may be on the hook to make them whole, along with the commenter to who told the harmful lie.
Not a slam-dunk case by any means, and there’s more to it than I’ve shared above.
But it’s an argument.
And, I don’t want to undertake the burden of having to fight that fight.
In the comments I’ve mentioned, I made edits to remove the names, then published them and emailed the commenters privately to explain why I made the edits. They were fine with that, understanding my position.
But, looking forward, as the blogosphere and social media, in general, mature, I think it’d be a good idea for all of us to understand the potential impact and “legal import” of the content we not only create ourselves, but allow to be published on our blogs and beyond.
Curious what your thoughts are on this?
Share away in the comments…
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